Greetings From Damascus!

The title revels where I am! I must say, from all the talk there was about how difficult getting a visa at the border was supposed to be for an American; one lesson to learn in life is that the moment is what matters and nothing else – Idol talk is worthless. Getting a visa was no problem at all. The passport control at the border did have to Fax Damascus to get approval; the process only took about two hours. The guy at the passport control did ask why I did not have a visa from the embassy in America; he asked, who told me that I could get one at the border? I just said the taxi guy, although the hotel in Irbid said it would be no problem, too. Once you’re at the border in Syria, you have left Jordan; it would be a big hassle to go back to Jordan. Certainly, the passport control understands this notion.

New currency – 45 Syrian Pounds to One Dollar – One hundred Dollars exchanges into 4500 Syrian Pounds.

My visa is good for 15 days, although I will be getting it extended for another two weeks. The women I met in Jordan who lives in Beirut has invited me to house sit her cat from June 22nd through August 14th, this will work out perfect. The dates are not set in gold, but I am flexible. I will travel Syria for a month and then head to Lebanon around the 18th of June. Toward the end of August, I will head to Turkey for two months, which will be somewhat low season, although don’t forget Ramadan starts September 2nd. My plan has been to get to the area of the Mediterranean by November.

I just landed on renting a room in a flat, with a washing machine and a kitchen, for one week here in Damascus, only paying around $7.00 a night. After the week I will be heading out to travel the country.

At the border, they do have a very decent duty free shop. Additionally, at the border there are no buses going anywhere, although they do have taxis. The taxi guy I met did try to charge me more, although I did bargain down to a good price. Two other men also rode in the car to Damascus. I paid $60.00 for the visa and $40.00 for the ride to Damascus. A flight from Amman to Beirut would have cost $200.00. The taxi guy was somewhat dishonest. Strangely enough, once we got to Damascus he drove through these strange alleyways, hitting a dead-end, he backed up and scratched the car significantly. Then he told me to get out and take a taxi to the city center. He deserved to have that happen; most likely, he is not the owner of the car. The way he tried to charge me a high price, and the way he was talking about sex with women was inappropriate.

Something else strange happen yesterday. I took a taxi from Irbid with two guys from Yemen and one guy from Jordan. There are certain taxis that travel to Syria and back everyday in Irbid and Amman, these are the taxis to hire because they are very knowledgeable regarding the border. We all went into the customs to get our stamps to exit Jordan. It took me longer at the customs office, because I needed to get my tax reimbursement back from the tax I paid on the computer I bought in Amman. When I came out, I “thought” I saw them drive away to the Syrian border. Besides, I didn’t see the car in the parking lot. Naturally, I did have my small day pack that unzips from my main pack with me, although my main pack was in the car. I jumped in another car to try to catch them and could not find them. I went back to the customs area to tell the police. First, I did pay the guy from Irbid to the border; I thought, maybe he thought I had my bag, because I did grab my small day pack out of the trunk. My plan was to go back to Irbid and wait for him at the station, which would have been the only option. Well, low and behold he did show up, and said that they were looking for me. Big mix up it seemed like, and we went on to the Syrian checkpoint. Nevertheless, when I got to the hotel and opened my bag, someone did go through it; who went through my bag is the question. Nobody was opening bags at the border, and I mean nobody. Nothing is missing, although one item I keep by my side is my small day pack. Even if I would have lost my main pack, I could just repurchase everything. What is important and valuable I keep in my day pack and by my side, always. Even if there was a bad motivation involved or not, everything work out just fine.

Arriving in Damascus has been positive. I stopped at this store to get directions and the store owner gave me some free items; two boxes of lozenges with bee propolis filled with bee honey, just what my system needs, I guess. Furthermore, the taxi I took from the store to the city center did not charge me. People here, along with Jordan, really enjoy giving a welcome gift.

Damascus is a very impressive city; I will have some pictures posted soon.